Other States

Visva-Bharati plunging into mindless discourse: Tagore kin

Sudripta Tagore  

Visva-Bharati is being dragged into a mindless discourse that undermines everything that founder Rabindranath Tagore stood for, according to a poet’s family member who runs an institution for children in Santiniketan, where the university is located.

“What Rabindranath Tagore and Visva-Bharati stand for might be subjective, but the Visva-Bharati Act 1951 clearly states that the university must function according to the ideals/ideas of Tagore,” Sudripta Tagore, who is a descendant of Rabindranath’s elder brother Satyendranath, told The Hindu.

Mr. Tagore is a former student of the university and in April 2019 — after over three decades of being engaged in educational activities in India and abroad — he returned to Santiniketan to open the Sishutirtha School with the purpose of “marrying Rabindranath’s ideas and modern pedagogy.”

Visva-Bharati, which turns 100 next year, has of late been hopping from one controversy to another, mostly related to the decisions taken by the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Bidyut Chakrabarty, which are often seen by long-serving teachers and alumni alike as authoritarian.

Ever since he took charge two years ago, staff was prohibited from speaking to the media, disciplinary action against teachers over what seemed to be trivial matters became commonplace, and walls began to be constructed to secure the university’s boundaries. Also during his tenure, several right-wing ideologues were invited as speakers and Home Minister Amit Shah — even though he has no statutory role in the institution — was honoured. Most recently, the university alleged that the ancestral home of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen — not an admirer of the Central Government — stood on a plot that included illegally-acquired land.

“Though Rabindranath was very politically aware, he never subscribed to any mainstream politics of his time. Forget about guarding against it, deliberately dragging the university into such mindless discourse is undermining all that Rabindranath stood for,” Mr. Tagore said.

Community, alumni

“Community and alumni — these two were the strongest strands in building the meaningful ecosystem that is Visva-Bharati. Today a deliberate attempt is being made to cut Visva-Bharati off from these two. Who loses? The students. They could have done much better with the backing of a strong alumni and a nurturing community. An example is the needless controversy brewing around Amartya da, an alumni and a thinker of the highest order,” he said.

Mr. Tagore said physical space was pivotal to Rabindranath’s idea of education and the poet had created a space that would be physically open and close to nature because he believed this was essential for the growth of children and young adults. “But construction of walls over the last year has directly undermined this idea. This was done in the name of encroachment. Nobody ever dared to touch the Poush Mela ground, yet it was barricaded,” he said.

“Aesthetics was another strong focus of Rabindranath. The structures were very carefully designed all along. Today the old structures [like the quarters in which Indira Devi lived] are being demolished. The walls, the new structures — they are aesthetically quite appalling. I would like to emphasise here that aesthetic value is what differentiates between a mediocre and high-value professional. I presume this was also the thought behind Rabindranath’s focus on aesthetics. Today, the students miss this edge. I was a mediocre student of this university, yet my aesthetic value served me well in my professions,” Mr. Tagore said.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 4:45:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/visva-bharati-plunging-into-mindless-discourse-tagore-kin/article33446168.ece

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